Cat Heaven snuck up on me and made me cry.

If you’re a cat lover or a book lover or a person who suffers from an ongoing existential crisis or simply a human being, Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is a book that you will love as you possibly weep.


My daughter, Clara, is named after a character in The Van Gogh Café – also by Rylant – and while I love that book for obvious reasons, I love this one so much more.


I picked it up and read it to Clara before bed, not knowing what was hiding between the pages. It snuck up on me, finding a way into my heart by the third page and sending me for an emotional loop.

Rylant also wrote Dog Heaven, but I’m almost afraid to read it. As much as I love my cat, I’ve owned dogs for much of my life, and I’ve buried more than I care to remember, oftentimes as a child as the result of my parents’ atrocious disregard for their safety.

I fear that Dog Heaven may be too much for me.

Cat Heaven is a beautiful book with beautiful images by Rylant herself. Buy it. Make it the gift that you give ever cat lover you know this year.

My namesake discovered 42 years later

My daughter’s name is Clara Susan.

Her first name comes from the protagonist in The Van Gogh Café by Cynthia Rylant. My wife loves that book, and it’s where she fell in love with the name for the first time. 

Her middle name was my mother’s first name.


My son’s name is Charles Wallace.

His name comes from the character by the same name in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. We both loved that book as children.

We are also fond of the poet Wallace Stevens, which helped cinch the deal.


My name is Matthew John.

Yesterday I learned that I was named after my father’s platoon leader in Vietnam. According to Dad, my namesake was a man “who was fair and honest, and the kind of guy who never tried to pull rank.”

My middle name was chosen because my parents felt that it went nicely with Matthew.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to learn this. Up until yesterday, I was under the impression that my name was chosen simply because my parents liked it. I had no idea that I had been named after another person. 

It’s a shame that it took me 42 years to learn this fact.

If you’ve been named for a person or even a fictional character, you should probably be told this much earlier in life. Don’t you think?

As with most things, my family does things a little differently.